Intel shifts AI chip focus

February 07, 2020 // By Peter Clarke
Intel drops Nervana after buying Habana
There goes $350 million plus. Intel Corp. is dropping development of its Nervana line of artificial intelligence processors and will, instead, focus on supporting chips from its latest acquisition Habana Labs.

Intel has been a serial acquirer of companies in its attempt to create to a commanding position in AI. It acquired Movidius and Nervana in 2016 and announced plans to acquire Habana Labs Ltd. (Caesarea, Israel) in December 2019. The purchase price was approximately $2 billion (see Intel pays $2 billion for AI chip firm ).

But that acquisition called into question what Intel was doing with Nervana, which it acquired in 2016 for about $350 million.

Intel has announced that it will support the NNP-I inference chip for previously committed customers but will stop work on the NNP-T training chip, according to a report published by Forbes magazine.

Intel had planned to have both training and inference versions of the second iteration of Nervana's architecture by the end of 2019. The implication is that either there was a delay in getting working silicon or there was a deficiency in performance. If Habana's comparable chips were showing superior performance it might explain the high price paid.

Habana was founded in 2016 and has launched its Goya inferencing processor chip and its Gaudi training chip, both aimed at data center applications. The startup raised more than $120 million since its formation and in 2018 announced a $75 million series B round led by Intel Capital.

The Gaudi chip has an on-die 100Gbit/s Ethernet fabric that supports remote direct memory access (RDMA) over Converged Ethernet (ROCE) thus providing Intel with a chip that can scale at low cost to thousands of nodes, according to the Forbes article.

Related links and articles:

Forbes article

News articles:

Intel pays $2 billion for AI chip firm

Intel to launch "commercial" Nervana NN processor in 2019

Gyrfalcon launches second AI accelerator

NovuMind benchmarks tensor processor

Chinese AI startup preps accelerator IC samples

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